Whether you’re just popping out for Sunday afternoon drive in the sunshine, or heading away for the annual family summer holiday, a little pre-planning and preparation for your summer motoring can be the difference between an enjoyable excursion, or the journey from hell.
The type of car you’re driving can have an impact on the enjoyment of your trip, but our 10 tips below apply to any motorist in any vehicle, and while many might seem obvious, many people end up on the hard shoulder due to easily avoided problems……
1. Plan & Research Your Summer Motoring Route
Even if your destination is familiar to you, summer traffic can mean that many routes become blocked with holiday traffic. Add to that roadworks or breakdowns, and a 3 hour journey can easily turn into 6 hours plus!
A lot of modern sat-navs can redirect you if they detect jams ahead, but often this option carries a subscription fee, so check before you travel, and ensure you’ve updated your device to the latest map updates.
2. Check Your Engine Fluids
Summer temperatures can put extra pressure on particularly older cars, but it’s always worth checking your oil and water before travelling. It’s also good practice to carry a bottle of oil and a container of water just in case you run into problems on the road. A funnel can make adding oil a lot easier and prevent dripping oil onto a hot engine.
Keep a rag or a roll of kitchen roll in the car too, to enable you to wipe the dipstick when checking your oil level, and wipe any drips clean on the engine. If you really want to be prepared, keep a pair of rubber, latex or latex free nitrile gloves in the car too!
3. Check Your Tyres & Pressures
You should always check your tyres on a regular basis, but in the summer any existing damage to tyres including splits or bulges can quickly develop into a major problem in higher temperatures and even result in failures including punctures, or at worst, a blow out. At high speeds a blow out can be fatal, so it pays to take 5 minutes to carry out a visual inspection on the condition of your tyres, check that they are inflated to the correct pressure, and don’t forget to check your spare!
Turn your steering to full left lock and inspect the full width of the tyre, then do the same on right lock. If any part of your tyres are bald, you should replace them. If a tyre is worn to the point where the steel braid is showing through, do NOT drive on that tyre. Change to your spare and get the tyre replaced as soon as possible. Ideally, tyres on the same axle should be changed in pairs to maintain steering and safe, effective braking.
4. Be aware of Hay-fever
Sneezing when driving at 70Mph can result in a loss of vision for up to 100 meters. That’s a pretty frightening prospect, but with a growing number of people becoming susceptible to the symptoms of hay-fever during summer motoring, it’s worth taking steps to minimise the potential for an accident.
There are a number of non-drowsy medications available to reduce the effect of hay-fever symptoms. Check with your pharmacist for suitable products, making sure that they are aware that you intend to drive whilst taking the medication.
5. Obtain Breakdown Cover
There’s nothing worse than breaking down on a motorway to find you have no breakdown cover. Recovery companies will often charge £100’s to get you off the – motorway to a garage, and if your car needs to be transported back home, that bill can grow considerably.
Even if you drive a modern car, problems can occur, so it’s worth shopping around for the best deal. Many insurance companies now offer discounted breakdown cover if taken out with your insurance policy.
If you’re travelling abroad, make sure you obtain European cover for your car, and check out the regulations for the country you are visiting, as many will have specific requirements. For example, it’s now mandatory in France to carry hi-visibility jackets or waistcoats for the event of a breakdown.
If you’re unlucky enough to break down, NEVER stay in your car on the hard shoulder of a motorway. Always find a safe place at the side of the motorway behind the barrier to await help.
6. Pack An Emergency Tool Kit
Depending on your level of expertise, it’s often useful to carry an emergency tool kit for those unexpected breakdowns. While it’s not always possible to resolve all breakdowns at the roadside, some simple fixes for common faults can be carried out with the right tools & equipment including;
– A multi-bit screwdriver (Containing various Philips/Flat & even Torx screwdriver bits)
– A pair of pliers
– Self Amalgamating Tape (Ideal for sealing split hoses)
– Gaffa Tape
– Insulation Tape
– A Spare Spark Plug or two
– Spark Plug Wrench
– Assorted electrical connectors & crimping tool (small kits containing a selection of connectors with crimping tool are available)
– Spare Fuses (Check which size fuses your car uses)
– Spare bulbs (kits can be obtained from motor retailers containing a full set for your particular car)
– Oil (Check the correct grade for your car)
– Empty Fuel Can (Just in case!)
– Assorted Jubilee clips
– Assorted Size Cable Ties
– Jump Leads
You may not wish to carry all of the above, but it should give you inspiration when preparing your own kit.
7. Check Your Windscreen Is Clear and Unobscured
Glare on a very sunny day on a dirty windscreen can make it almost impossible to see properly, and can cause an accident. Make sure your windscreen is clean and if necessary carry some screen cleaner with you and a microfibre cloth.
Obtain a good quality washer solution and ensure your washer bottle is fully filled and that all wipers are in good condition and wipe without smearing.
Fly squats during summer motoring months can impair your vision significantly, and are often difficult to remove. There are a number of products available that dissolve dried fly squats, making light work of getting your windscreen gleaming again.
8. Wear Sunglasses
It sounds obvious, but sunglasses are not only a great fashion accessory for summer motoring, but can massively reduce glare while driving.
It is important however to beware of photochromic or transition lenses that darken automatically in bright conditions. These lenses are activated when exposed to UV light, but most modern car windscreens feature UV filters which means the photochromic ability of the lenses will not work properly.
Many people prefer polarising lenses which are more effective in particular for reducing the effects of glare, but be careful if your car has any electronic displays as polarising lenses can obscure colours on such devices making them difficult to read.
9. Monitor Your Gauges
Your car can often pre-warn you of potential problems, so it’s important to react when warnings show up. Your gauges are the first indicator if something is wrong, and in high temperature summer motoring conditions, the one you need to keep a check on is obviously the temperature gauge.
Overheating in extreme cases can destroy or seriously damage an engine. As well as the temperature gauge climbing rapidly, if your car starts to overheat you may experience stuttering acceleration and/or unusual noises. If you notice that your car is starting to overheat, stop your vehicle in a safe place as quickly as possible and switch your engine off. If you continue to drive while the vehicle is overheating, this is when the engine could be irreversibly damaged.
One potential red herring that you can run into is when parking up on a hot day, you may notice a small puddle of water underneath the front of your car. This generally isn’t a leak as you might think at first, but simply condensation draining from your air conditioning system. This is completely normal and poses no cause for alarm.
10. Take Regular Breaks
Bright sunlight, combined with high temperatures & monotonous roads like motorways can enhance fatigue. Make sure you stop you car and get out and stretch your legs frequently to reduce the risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
On longer summer motoring journeys, try to take several breaks during your trip rather than one long one, and ensure you have sufficient drinks to re-hydrate throughout. Dehydration can increase tiredness and lack of concentration.
Always ensure you stop for breaks in designated parking areas, and never stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway unless you’ve broken down.